By Brad Vandenberk
The final home game of the regular season played at the United Center arrived for the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. The visiting Minnesota Wild played their boring style of stifling teams to shot from the outside helping Devan Dubnyk make saves. It was successful as Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker both scored to guarantee a Wild playoff spot with a 2-1 victory. Bryan Bickell scored late and Corey Crawford was playoff ready making some sensational saves, but putting the puck in the net is number one and the Hawks just didn’t have it.
Kimmo Timonen did not dress for this one with an upper body injury. It was announced, after the absence of Brad Richards during the morning skate, that the veteran would be done for the rest of the regular season with an upper body injury as well. This gave the opportunity for Kyle Baun to make his NHL debut. Joakim Nordstrom made his way back onto the fourth line, sending Andrew Desjardins back to the press box. David Rundblad and Michal Rozsival were both in the lineup.
The Wild opened the period not looking like a team that has just come off a 2-0 loss to Winnipeg a night earlier. They own the Hawks zone for the first few minutes of play. Well we know what happens when you poke the bear. Patrick Sharp uses his speed to try and elude a Wild defender. Joakim Nordstrom finds a wide open Marcus Kruger in front of the net but Dubnyk makes the save. David Rundblad makes a strong move to the net and the puck just slides through the crease. Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg and Marina Hossa literally spend up to a minute in the Wild zone just cycling the puck and winning rebounds off Dubnyk’s saves. Duncan Keith definitely came to play making great defensive moves all over the ice. Jason Pominville speeds in and fires Crawford’s real test of the first period. 22 year old Kyle Baun, levels Jordan Leopold behind Dubnyk. Zach Parise beats Crawford with a back hand but can’t beat the post. Crawford again makes a great save on a point blank attempt on Jason Zucker. The period ends with the score tied at 0 and the Hawks leading the Wild 8-6 in shots on goal.
Rundblad loses the puck and the Wild create a 2 on 0 the other way but Crawford makes a great save on Thomas Vanek and then again stops Vanek in the slot to open the second period. Brandon Saad’s shot makes it through Dubnyk but heads wide. The Hawks keep coming with their speed and the Wild can now feel those legs from the night earlier. Sharp sends a shot off Dubnyk’s mask. Andrew Shaw and Sharp break in on a 2 on 1. Sharp’s rebound shot beats Dubnyk but not Jared Spurgeon who clears the crease. Kyle Brodziak sends Rundblad into the boards. The first power play of the game is awarded to the Hawks when Ryan Suter trips Toews as he makes a move toward the net. The Hawks fail to break the tie. The Wild get their first power play attempt when Bryan Bickell plays the puck a little too early causing a too many men penalty. They execute a glorious penalty kill. The period ends with the Hawks still up in shots 23-15.
Determined to end this scoreless bore fest, Sharp and Shaw work together to try and get a shot on net. Baun sends a shot on net trying to get a re direct past Dubnyk. Shaw dives to try and put one in and Suter makes an incredible defensive play. The refs had their whistles away for the rest of this one. Baun gets hate late after the whistle but I guess that’s ok especially when it’s 2 Wild players. Crawford is the most ready Hawk for the playoffs. He makes all kinds of saves to help his team out. He makes a save on Pominville then Parise bats it out of the air and he saves that while sitting in the crease. Minutes later Granlund makes a quick move and beats Crawford 1-0. Then Chris Stewart and Zucker break in on a 2 on 1. Rundblad looks like a lost house league player chasing everyone that has the puck leaving Zucker wide open, he beats Crawford for a 2-0 lead. Crawford heads to the bench with 2 minutes left and Bryan Bickell races in roofing it over Dubnyk giving the Hawks life with 1:48 remaining. Saad uses his last bit of gas in the tank to try and tie it but no one is there to put home the rebound. With a minute remaining in the game, Michal Rozsival, Rundblad and Versteeg are on the ice which equals loss 2-1.
-Hawks outshot the Wild 33-30.
-Both teams go 0/1 on the power play.
-Duncan Keith led all Hawks in TOI with 22:42. Brent Seabrook was next with 21:21.
-Kyle Baun first career NHL game led all Hawks with 5 hits, had 1 shot and 1 takeaway playing 13:36.
-Hawks still remain in 3rd spot in the Central division but the Wild are now only 4 points behind.
-The remaining 2 games in the schedule involve a trip to St Louis on Thursday and Colorado on Saturday. Both games will help the Hawks gain some points with a St Louis loss to Winnipeg tonight. Nashville also losses keeping the standings the same.
-Patrick Kane started upping the tempo with his shots at morning skate and is progressing. Still undetermined when he will return but things are looking positive.
Versteeg Toews Hossa Oduya Seabrook
Saad Vermette Baun Keith Rundblad
Bickell Shaw Sharp Hjalmarsson Rozsival
Nordstrom Kruger Teravainen